John F. Kennedy once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” As parents, educators, and supportive adults, we all want to make sure that our children are as safe from harm as possible.
In my years of work as a mental health clinician, I have heard numerous stories from parents, teachers, and first responders about hurt children. I have been moved as I have seen their tears as they talk about the children who were burned, drowned, or, at worst, killed. From these stories, I learned that there is nothing more tragic than seeing a child hurt other than knowing that the injury could have been prevented. While we wish that we could be with our children constantly to protect them from the sometimes-harsh realities of daily life, there is seldom the opportunity to do so. We rely on our schools, our physicians, and our community at large to take on much of this role.
I recently searched online for the term “keeping kids safe” and found hundreds of thousands of articles and websites devoted to the many resources available for parents and other caregivers with specific things they can do to keep their children safe from harm. Some of these Google hits related to abduction or school shootings or reducing risks for teen drivers; the majority of them, however, were related to seatbelt use, car seats, bicycle helmets, and most importantly, the need to teach children the skills needed to avoid harm. While we realize that stronger laws and safer environments can help protect our children, it is education that has the biggest impact.
Given that approximately one-third of the residents in our Public Hospital District service area are children and young adults, my call to action to you today is this: When you are done reading this article, reach out to your children. Ask them if they feel safe walking in your neighborhood or riding their bike. Do they know how to get out of your home in the case of a fire? Are they confident in their swimming abilities? If they babysit other children, do they know what to do in the case of an emergency? If the answer to any of these is “no,” reach out to the resources in our community that can help provide the education and skills that it takes to keep our children safe from injury.
Here are some injury prevention resources in our community we think might be useful:
- Swim lessons are available at the pools in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, the Dale Turner Family YMCA, and Yost Pool in Edmonds in the summer. Verdant funds a program that can provide free lessons to youth who are beginning swimmers. Inquire directly at these pools for details.
- Fire prevention services through the American Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm program uses volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, to canvass high-risk neighborhoods, installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms, and helping families create escape plans. To find out more about the Home Fire Campaign and how to get involved, please visit www.redcross.org/local/washington/home-fire-safety.
- Improvements to the bike network taking place through the Bike2Health program have improved safety on our roads for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. To learn more about the safe routes for riders or other details, visit www.bike2health.org.
- First aid and CPR classes are available through a number of programs in our community, including the Red Cross, Swedish Edmonds, City of Lynnwood, South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue, and many others. There are free “hands-only” CPR events that occasionally take place in the community. These will be posted at verdanthealth.org/events as we become aware of them.
— Robin Fenn, Ph.D., LICSW, Superintendent, Verdant Health Commission